Every Continent in the world has been grappled by the Corona Virus Pandemic, every single person's life has been adversely affected and the immigration system is no different, Tier 1 Entrepreneur business owners, sponsored employees, temporary migrants, illegal migrants, visitors, spouses etc... are all part of an ongoing list.
The immediate lockdown of public offices, private companies and essentially the economy has put people not only in shock but amid concerns of their financial, emotional and mental health and of course immigration status.
In these unprecedented times, to help clarify some of the questions we have produced some information below.
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Visa application centers
Visa application centers both within the UK (UKVCAS) and aboard (TLS contact and VFS center) are closed temporarily. All scheduled appointments have been cancelled and the centers are contacting individuals to inform them of the next steps.
Initially the applications were not being processed at all, however we have now seen that the UK Visas and Immigrations office is making contact and requesting for documents for our clients to be scanned and processed. Biometric information is not being requested at the moment in light of the pandemic however will resume whenever it is safe to do so. Decisions however are being made and processed on papers only.
The UKVI has extended most visas until 31 May 2020 however we advise that despite the lockdown one should attempt to extend their leave and submit an application to the Home Office in time before their current leave expires. While it is likely that the application will not progress within the Home Office if submitted it will assist in avoiding delays and unnecessary complications when the centers open.
Travelling to the UK with Entry clearence already granted.
Theoretically the UK ports are still open for entry with no requirement to show that travel is for essential means only, however with the Pandemic being an international issue it may be difficult for one to obtain a flight. If you already have entry clearence the advice would be to contact your local foreign commonwealth office or the British Embassy to see if a repatriation flight can be availed. Those on Tier 2 Entry clearence leaves should inform their employers of the delay in arriving to the UK, who in turn must inform the Home Office.
It should be noted that the Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force on 25 March 2020 gives power to Immigration officers for quarantine. Other than this the usual rules relating to entry such as intention of travel, means etc as found in Part 9 of the Immigration rules remains applicable.
Points Based System Migrants
Before the UK went into Lockdown, many points-based migrants, Tier 1, 2, 4 etc. Had left the UK for short holidays and are now stuck abroad due to the pandemic. We know that PBS migrants are restricted to a certain period of absence during their allocated period of leave and the elongated absence may affect their application for settlement or extension.
While extension application and ILR application are subject to different rules, a common rule is that the migrant must not have had absences of more than 180 days during 12-month Period. We would like to assure you that providing the migrant is able to show ‘serious and compelling’ reasons for the absences the Home Office should take a view of both the Extension and the settlement application.
The key to remember is to obtain sound legal advice at both stages to ensure that the absence due to Coronavirus does not hinder the PBS migrant's extension or settlement application or for that means their current status in the UK.